May 5, 2015

Engineered Hardwood Floor vs Solid Hardwood Floor - What to Consider

Engineered Hardwood Floor vs Solid Hardwood Floor - What to Consider

Hardwood is a common choice as a flooring material and it has gained its rank in becoming one of the top choices not only in offices but in households as well because of its environmental profile and restorability. It can easily be refinished when worn and scuffed and it is also a timeless mix of beauty and durability that can effortlessly match with any interior or exterior design. In choosing wood as flooring, it is a matter of personal choice. But here are some of wood floor basics that will help you in making a smart choice. Wood floor has two major types; Solid Hardwood and Engineered Hardwood.

Solid hardwood flooring is 100% hardwood milled from a single piece of timber or lumber that is kiln or air dried before sawing with tongue and groove sides. Depending on the desired look of the floor, the timber can be cut in three ways: flat-sawn, quarter-sawn, and rift-sawn. Solid wood flooring is available in a variety of sizes and species ranging in durability from pine to Brazilian cherry.  Some come packed unfinished for a site-finished installation others are pre-finished 3/4" solid hardwood floors or finished at the factory. Solid hardwood products also include different gloss levels and surface treatments like hand-scraping or distressing.

    As a natural material, hardwood reacts shrink and expand in response to seasonal changes in moisture level and temperature. In cold season, household will be turning up their heater causing the inside of the house to warm. The difference in the temperature in and out of the house causes the wood to contract, which may create gaps between wood planks. In summer, the humidity increases, wood floors can expand, causing those gaps to magically disappear.  Too much moisture, however, can cause the planks to buckle or cup which is unsightly to wood floors. So, if you are contemplating in installing wood floor in your bathroom, think again. In general, all solid hardwood is not recommended for installation below ground level or in bathrooms.   

Solid hardwood is manufactured differently to address the “moisture-response” issue. 

    Rotary-peel. This process involves treating the wood by boiling the log in water at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. After preparation, the wood is peeled by a blade starting from the outside of the log and working toward the center, thus creating a wood veneer. The veneer is then pressed flat with high pressure. This style of manufacturing tends to have problems with the wood cupping or curling back to its original shape. Rotary-peeled engineered hardwoods tend to have a plywood appearance in the grain.

    Sliced-peel. This process begins with the same treatment process that the rotary peel method uses. However, instead of being sliced in a rotary fashion, with this technique the wood is sliced from the log in much the same manner that lumber is sawn from a log – straight through. The veneers then go through the same manufacturing process as rotary peeled veneers. Engineered hardwood produced this way tends to have fewer problems with "face checking", and also does not have the same plywood appearance in the grain. However, the planks can tend to have edge splintering and cracking due to the fact the veneers have been submersed in water and then pressed flat.

    Dry solid-sawn. Instead of boiling the hardwood logs, in this process they are kept at a low humidity level and dried slowly to draw moisture from the inside of the wood cells. The logs are then sawed in the same manner as for solid hardwood planks. This style of engineered hardwood has the same look as solid hardwood, and does not have any of the potential problems of "face checking" that rotary-peel and slice-peel products have, because the product is not exposed to added moisture.

What’s great about solid wood floors is that they can be refinished and recoated multiple times throughout their lifespan, which can be decades or longer. It is very easy to maintain and clean because stains and dirt does not stick to it. With hardwood flooring you are not stuck with a certain color or shade because they have different natural patterns, with no two hardwood floors being exactly alike. This type of flooring is tough, strong, and even if you put or drop something heavy on the floor, you do not have to worry about it getting dented or scratched.

    There are the disadvantages of having this type of flooring. Since only natural materials used and it takes a lot of time in installing thus buying the material and hiring a professional to install it is really costly. Unfortunately, hardwood flooring can become slippery, making it a little dangerous to walk on in sock feet. Wearing certain types of shoes can make walking across the hardwood floor noisy so if you want a home without much noise, then you are going to have the added expense of throw rugs in areas where the noise is the worse.

On the other hand, engineered wood flooring has also become an extremely popular hardwood flooring type mainly because it can be used in many areas of the home where solid hardwood is not recommended. Engineered flooring has come a long way since it was first introduced to the market nearly 70 years ago. As these products continue to gain popularity, a multitude of style and construction options are available. Largely seen as a more versatile alternative to solid wood floors, engineered products can be installed over a variety of surfaces in many applications, expanding the reach of where wood flooring can be used.

    Engineered hardwood flooring is real wood flooring, but is more stable than solid wood It is less susceptible to shrinking and expanding with changes in temperatures and humidity but is still durable due to its multiple wood layers. Engineered wood floors are constructed of 3 or more thin sheets (called plies) of wood that are laminated together to form a single plank. The top layer (lamella) is the wood that is visible when the flooring is installed and is adhered to the core. The plies are usually laid in opposite directions (called cross-ply construction) to each other during the manufacturing process. The increased stability of engineered wood is achieved by running each layer at a 90° angle to the layer above. This “cross-ply” type of construction creates a hardwood floor that is dimensionally stable and not affected by changes in moisture and temperature variations like traditional 3/4" solid wood floors. The advantage of cross-ply construction is that the wood plies counteract each other, thus prohibiting the plank from expanding or shrinking. Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to reduce the moisture problems associated with conventional hardwood. Its layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor. Engineered flooring will not swell or warp, making it very low maintenance.

    This stability makes it a universal product that can be installed over all types of subfloors above, below or on grade. It can be installed practically anywhere, including over wood sub-floors, concrete slabs and in your basement. They can be nailed down, stapled down, glued down — even floated over some types of existing flooring.

The price of engineered hardwood is another selling point. In addition to reducing upkeep costs, engineered flooring is less expensive from the start. This becomes even more true as the type of wood gets more exotic. Rare hardwood is very expensive. Since engineered hardwood flooring requires only a thin slice of the desired wood, the cost decreases dramatically.

Choosing engineered flooring is considered more environmentally friendly than traditional hardwood for a few reasons. Veneer is sliced rather than cut with a saw. This process produces no sawdust, which means that all of the tree's wood can be used. The sawdust produced making hardwood boards is wasted wood (and adds up to a significant amount). Also, hardwood trees grow much more slowly than the trees used to make engineered flooring cores.